Ok I know this is well overdue but with having the Ultra at Knockagh the week after Rock n Roll, I found myself immediately on my return from Dublin launching straight into the zone and spending the week afterwards, recovering from it all.
I had always had my sights set on the Half Marathon in Dublin as an opportunity for me to go out and leave nothing on the course. It had been over a year since I’d clocked a half personal best, putting it down to simply pushing up the miles for DCM and then Derry. But with the huge increase in miles over the past year, I began to wonder why I wasn’t getting any faster.
Ok it was obvious that my training held the answer to that. The lack of speed training in my then non existent plan meant that yes I was happy to plod along for 13, 17, 20 miles but although building endurance my speed never picked up and actually went the other way.
So with being crowned the Ulster Rock n Run Idol, this was my chance to shine. After Derry Marathon I got my act together and began intervals with the girls on Wednesday nights and it wasn’t long before not only I, but Jennifer started to clock better times. With Summer upon me also, it freed me up to take to the mountains on active recovery days and even the mental advantages of that where priceless as I wondered aimlessly up the Mournes for hours on end, sometimes on my own, sometimes dragging someone along.
At Ards Half, I was a mere 50seconds of my PB and I was treating the race as a welcome back to running after Derry Marathon a few weeks earlier. And then the bright idea of tackling Knockagh 50k Ultra presented itself, so no more excuses, it was game face with Rock n Roll now being an invaluable race as part of taper and endurance.
So the weekend went like this.
Note this became a weekend away with the girls. It was Brendas birthday and Michael being on the bench didn’t mind staying behind. So off we set to Dublin on the Friday evening. I had flirted with the idea of even a 5k PB on the Saturday at the 1st race. That all went out the window as we arrived into the RnR VIP party on Friday night.
Teaming together with the Dublin RnR Idol, Keith and his dashing significant other, Stephen, I would love to go into further details on what happened next but its a bit hazy so the general consensus was that maybe it was a good thing that Sinead won the competition as the two of us where certain to be liabilities in Vegas. When you feel the need to teach a barman how to pour a proper glass of wine, this is where we went wrong. It was gone past 2 before we crawled into bed and alarms set to get up for the 1st of 3 races that weekend.
Not good. Not good at all. I will say this, the best thing I could have done was get up and go outside, even to run (using that term lightly). Serious case of being hungover, but thankfully I wasn’t the worst, isn’t that right Jennifer. Who cares about Personal Bests, Saturdays race was solely about Personal Worsts. Together we made it round the course in just short of 43 minutes and a valuable lesson was learnt! NEVER AGAIN- at least as an ensemble we looked class together as the mini team of little misses.
The welcome taste of Mega Meanies and Lucozade (the staple diet of the weekend with Eddie Rockets) got me going post race and we spent Saturday chilling and fuelling the appropriate way for the Half Marathon on the Sunday.
In all honesty I was just glad to be alive on Sunday. The antics of Friday had me wondering if I was even going to be fit for 13.1 mile. So with the intentions, sponsored by the toll bridge on the way down, to just arrive alive.
It was an early start. I had to be at the start line for a photo call with other idols and people involved and we had opted to walk to the Point/O2/3Arena or whatever it is called now. All dreams of a PB had gone out the window and I was just going to take things as they came.
Bumping into some other local running celebrities, The Roddy Sisters, we made our way to the start and spirits where high. I forget how big some events can be. So used to smaller scale runs, it was lovely to be surrounded by a sea of runners. The serious athletes, the groups tackling this together, those in fancy dress and then your average joes like me out to pass a Sunday morning and earn some fabulous bling.
Everyone within the RnR team where fabulous. A great family of event organisers who knew exactly how to work of eachother. Photos taken and it was a matter now of waiting for everything to kick off.
With Jennifer returning home on Saturday evening to compete in Monaghan 10/5 miler, it left Caitriona, Brenda and myself to tackle the half. We had stolen Janet to keep us in craic and little did I know that she was to play a huge part in my race in the latter stages. It was a perfect day for running, overcast but not cold. Though it was to heat up.
As corrals began to cross the line from 8.30. It was nearing 9 before we crossed the mats and we stayed together as a threesome for the first mile or so. Losing Caitriona quite early on, Brenda and I ran side by side round Christchurch and past the Guinness Factory. What still to this day gets me wondering is why everyone was waiting to get their pictures taken mid race, outside St. James’ Gate. I get that its iconic but swing by after the race and get your photo!
Shortly after 5k, Brenda told me to motor on and she’d catch up. As we hit 4 mile, I wasn’t to see Brenda again and found company with the lovely ladies of Star, Derry. I always worry when someone knows me and I don’t know them but knowing a few of their clan, I was glad it wasn’t because I had been banned from Derry after the marathon after party!
I also began to notice a lot of the course was like DCM backwards and got this strange fuzzy feeling inside. I fondly look back on my run at Dublin and it was lovely, yet petrifying to be back on those roads again.
Losing the Derry girls, I entered into Ballyfermot with 2 lovely ladies from Sloggers to Joggers. They were upbeat and just what I needed. Full of craic and support. At around 5 mile as we swept around the corner to the climb to the back of Phoenix Park, I met a first time half marathoner from England. At this point also it began to heat up, the clouds had started to lift and the sun peaked out. We ran together until 8 mile. Her determination to not stop to walk was fabulous. In all honesty she kept me going as I thought to myself, there’s no need for me to stop, I’m fit to keep going. At the 8 mile water stop as we arrived in Phoenix Park, I told her I’d catch her and took on some water and a gel.
Here is where my race picked up no end. Janet came beside me as I was getting stuck back in. Janet and I have spent many miles together and as a fellow guide runner, we always have plenty to talk about. Yes I know if I’m talking, I’m not running hard enough but I love the company and she is faster than me so its a challenge to keep alongside her and one I contently managed on the day. As we fell in with some ladies from Duleek who were brilliant to pace off, we hit 10 mile.
I dared to look at my watch and knew that I was well ahead of where I had hoped to be. However, I was no sooner thinking about saying something when I spotted the medical team on the hill. And there was some poor soul flat on the ground. I knew after the way I died the previous day that anything could happen to me over the next 3 mile. So I kept it to myself and enjoyed the tale of Janet and Tony at the Twin Peaks Half Marathon.
At mile 11 I spotted Sinead, Sinead and Eileen on the brow of the hill and as lake buddies who I have passed multiple times in the past week going the other way it was nice to mob them and share the love for the lake!
Mile 12 I caught sight of my friend from earlier in the race, still going. Janet and I had picked up Donna, one third of the infamous Roddy Sisters and plenty of abuse was being hurled of course all with laced with love and respect. I knew I had the personal best even if I crawled the last mile but I was feeling strong and I was buzzing. The end was near and as we turned onto the final straight I could feel the overwhelming emotions of achieving the long awaited Half PB. This was made even more special as with 100m to go there where the cheers from my southern running family, Drogheda and District AC, who I adopted at Derry. 2.36 saw me knock over 5.5 minutes off my time from Cookstown Half in July 2016.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get through the finish funnel quick enough to phone Michael and tell him. I really missed not having him patiently waiting for me and unable to share the moment with him. I could barely talk and for once he was genuine and said well done, when I got home the next day, he was sure I could do better. Which I am not going to argue with.
Walking back to the DDAC contingent to cheer the girls home allowed me to share my excitement with everyone. It wasn’t long before we welcomed Brenda across the line and she was followed by Caitriona shortly after. We all arrived alive.
On completing the Half we had half an hour to get ourselves sorted for the fun run. 1.5 mile which we were treating as a cool down. Seems nearly everyone was doing the same but we crossed the line earning ourselves the 4th medal of the weekend.
A quick interview with the RnR crowd and we were free to bask in the glorious August Sunshine in our nations Capital.
Best way I can describe Rock n Roll is; It’s like Christmas for Runners. Plenty of bling, well thought out and organised route and surrounded by your running family. The craic was immense and no doubt I will be returning but think I will be avoiding the wine next time.